Top Ten Tuesday

5 Words Frequently Used in YA Book Titles

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Publishers sure seem to do this on purpose, don’t they? They tweak the title with common words we’ve all heard before. If there’s an amazing bestselling book, there’s a chance the buzz words in that title will come up time and time again. I’m not an expert on book titles, of course. I’m just a reader. However, since this week’s prompt asked to figure out the most frequently used words, I turned to my owned books for the answer.

I didn’t spend hours poring over all the buzz words of each title because ain’t nobody got time for that. So, here’s a cursory glance (which means to say, I’m totally guessing here) of the most used words in YA titles that I own. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is: Words Frequently Used in YA Titles:


Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch | Because You Love to Hate Me by Ameriie | P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han


The Walled City by Ryan Graudin | City Love by Susane Colasanti | City of Bones by Cassandra Clare


Guy In Real Life by Steve Brezenoff | This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales | My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick


Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare | Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas | The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson


Heartless by Marissa Meyer | Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby | Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

What books have you read recently that have these buzz words in their titles?

book review

Twisted Hunt of Horrors | Alone by Cyn Balog

Friday, April 20, 2018

Alone by Cyn Balog

Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication Date: 11/7/17
Pages: 277
Source: given by publisher in exchange for honest review

When her mom inherits an old, crumbling mansion, Seda’s almost excited to spend the summer there. The grounds are beautiful and it’s fun to explore the sprawling house with its creepy rooms and secret passages. Except now her mom wants to renovate, rather than sell the estate—which means they're not going back to the city…or Seda's friends and school. As the days grow shorter, Seda is filled with dread. They’re about to be cut off from the outside world, and she’s not sure she can handle the solitude or the darkness it brings out in her. Then a group of teens get stranded near the mansion during a blizzard. Seda has no choice but to offer them shelter, even though she knows danger lurks in the dilapidated mansion—and in herself. And as the snow continues to fall, what Seda fears most is about to become her reality…
After her aunt and uncle die, Seda Helm is forced to move with her four siblings and parents to the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania. Living in a house that once used to be a murder mystery hotel is the least of her worries. When unexpected visitors plead to stay, Seda knows something bad is about to happen. And she couldn’t be more right.

Realistic But Annoying Characters

  • At first, I didn't really know what to make of Seda. There are so many layers to her character. Her strength to continue searching for normal in a sea of strange was commendable, but other characteristics like her stubbornness and her dislike for change made me a bit indifferent to her character. I couldn't fully connect with Seda which left Alone lacking in a few ways. The reveal of her entire character is surprising, leaving the end an absolute wild ride.
  • The characters change their minds several times without explanation to their thinking which is both realistic but annoying in its inconsistency.
  • I adored that Alone is about a girl who hears a voice inside her head as much as it was about the house she lived in. The house took center stage as if it were a character itself. 

Twists, Turns, and Scares

  • Alone by Cyn Balog gives off these creepy vibes right from the start. The novel is a perfect book to read during the colder months.
  • The brief blurbs of promotional items from the murder mystery hotel days gave some much needed information about the history of the house. It was interesting to watch the story unfold, starting with the blurb at the beginning of each chapter. It paralleled nicely to the story’s structure, balancing out what was happening in the present to what happened in the past.
  • The introduction seemed to drag on further than necessary. The meat of the story didn't really begin until after halfway, which for a 300-page novel is unfortunate. 
  • There were moments when I thought I knew the exact direction it would go in. However, Balog keeps readers completely on their toes. She constantly changes direction, moving the plot further away from ever becoming predictable.
  • The twists were unexpected. Alone quickly became a horror movie without the clichés, ready to scare readers at every turn. 

Hunt of Horrors

  • Seda’s mother builds an epic scavenger hunt for her daughter’s birthday. The scavenger hunt of horrors was absolutely filled with genius. I've always wanted to participate in a murder mystery play and Alone gives readers the chance to put the pieces together with the other characters. It was fun and extremely unique. The scavenger hunt is actually the highlight of the entire book. It's the draw that certainly turns the drab, gothic plot to a heart-racing, horrific read.
  • Cyn Balog’s writing is extremely fast paced. Though there isn't much action until the second half of the book, Alone reads like an action movie. Balog' s writing is superb, weaving an intriguing and thrilling plot. She built a unique structure that piles on all the questions with absolutely no answers until the big reveal. This created a most original and heart-pounding ending that will give you a plot you are not about to forget.
  • The end easily makes readers ask for more. The ending is fantastic, getting your heart pumping even after finishing the last page.


Alone by Cyn Balog is perfect to read during a storm with all the lights off. The setup of the main plot does drag a bit but when readers finally enter the main story, they are in for a real treat. 

A Darker Shade of Magic book discussion

Book Discussion: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Week 8)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Welcome to the A Darker Shade of Magic book discussion! We are going to have a blast reading along together. Each week, following the schedule, my friend Jackie and I will recap that particular week’s chapters with hilarious commentary. At the end of each discussion post, there will be a few questions to get the party started. These questions serve as food for thought. All comments related to the book and this week’s chapters are always welcome! Remember: I am giving away a copy of the paperback edition of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (for extra entries, comment below)! Now, let’s get this party started!

This week, we'll be discussing Part 9, Chapter 1 to 4. To depict our thoughts in the most coherent way possible (after all, this is a dialogue between friends), my font color will stay black and Jackie's color will be red.

DISCLAIMER: Spoilers ahead! This post discusses this week’s chapters of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. If you do not want to be spoiled on what happens in the book, don’t read any further.

Part 9: Chapter 1

Jeanna: We are back in Red London. It’s a gorgeous day, isn’t it? It’s like nothing has ever changed. Kell believes this to be a false sense of normalcy. After all, everything has changed. Except, at first, Lila isn’t with him. I thought the worst. She’s stuck between worlds, dead, in a million pieces. And Kell thinks of the Stone. No, but what about Lila? Kell recalls her giving him her handkerchief so he is able to track her, if she’s still alive. If he had tracked her and she was stuck between worlds, would he have gotten stuck too?

Lila thinks this whole thing is grand. If I were her, I would have stayed right where I was. Also, why did Lila and Kell separate-- it wasn’t really mentioned in the book how far away from each other they were. Why did they come out in different points? Of course, Lila decides to explore. She stumbles onto Rhy’s birthday parade. It’s all fantastic with bright colors and magic. Lila, however, is taken aback when she finds that none of the townsfolk speak much English. This dynamic is interesting, which we have discussed before. In Red London, English is only spoken by the higher ups, royalty and other noble people. This marks Lila as an outsider. 

Tv Land Speak English GIF by YoungerTV

I’m glad we got a small glimpse of Rhy in this scene. However, it doesn’t tell us much about what he’s been up to all this time. Planning his party, perhaps. He does a double take, it seems, when he catches Lila’s eye. It may because he recognizes Kell’s coat and with him missing, this is undoubtedly suspicious.

Lila is enjoying Red London, deciding to move further into the land. If Kell wasn’t using magic, he probably would have never found her again. She goes to a market where she works her mad skills in stealing something from a food stand. It’s an enchanted cart so no stealing there. Kell saves the day, sweeping in right as the conversation was getting heated. Not that we really know what was being said as the salesman spoke little English. So, yah, now they’re together and all is in order. They go on their way to the Inn where Kell keeps his collection. 

Jackie: I thought that it was strange too how Red London was all in order and seemed to be “normal,” but something is up. Anyway, I thought it was interesting how Kell was thinking about Lila and him being ‘linked’ so he could use that to find her. Thank goodness Lila had thought of giving him her handkerchief because he may not have found her again or would have had a much more difficult time finding her. 

Before Kell finds her though, Lila does go on her adventure, and as per usual is trying to explore as well as trying to steal something. Since her use of English already marks her as an outsider, when she tries to steal from the enchanted cart, this really makes her stand out. I was thinking to myself at this time, Lila...

If she could have just lasted like two more minutes until Kell found her then she wouldn’t be in trouble. Five minutes alone and she is already stealing things or attempting to without checking to see if they are enchanted persons or objects! I mean, hello, Lila, you are in Red London now where magic is more potent and omnipresent, you have to be more careful miss pirate! 

Jeanna: If only. She should have waited. I get it. She’s a pirate. When the moment calls, you got to answer it-- it’s stealing time. Though it is a dumb move on her part. She knows Kell has money. That’s why she stole from him in the first place. If she had waited, they could have enjoyed a lovely meal- real tourist style since this is her first time being there and all. Imagine Kell as a tour guide.

Pirates Of The Carribean Elizabeth GIF

Though, she probably wouldn’t have accepted Kell’s money. It’s interesting to me that she would fall back on her thieving ways when she had the Stone in her possession. She could have just willed a piece of coin into her life. It would have made things much easier. 

Also, the salesman is able to call a guard over but Kell arrives just in time to take Lila away before they’re both caught. Is he running away for good reason or is he being paranoid? I think it’s highly unlikely the guards would use force in making Kell return to the palace. Since multiple people have seen him in the area, isn’t that enough to let the royals know that he’s home. It doesn’t seem that they’re looking for him anyway. I mean, they’re having Rhy’s party without him! Why?

Jackie: Yes, it’s intriguing that Lila doesn’t use the Stone to see her way out of getting caught stealing, but maybe it’s just because she’s more in tune with her stealing abilities than using magic, even if it is free magic use. 

I think Kell just doesn’t want to be taken in by the guards whether they know he is in the area or not. I mean even Rhy was staring right at Lila, presumably because she was wearing Kell’s jacket, but he doesn’t make any visible commands to go get Kell (or who he thinks is Kell). So, that’s odd to me that he wouldn’t have the guards get Kell after he sees Kell’s jacket, signaling that Kell has returned home. That is HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS. As is the guards’ behavior and others’ behaviors for not getting Kell back to the castle ASAP, this whole thing in Red London is just weird. Something is off. 

Jeanna: I agree with you that something is definitely off. However, I thought Rhy’s reaction to seeing Kell’s coat was reasonable. Rhy cares a lot about his reputation. Kell even mentions that Rhy adores the attention of his people. If Rhy had caused a scene here, it would potentially hurt his image. He can’t just stand up in a moving carriage and scream out into the crowd at a woman who may or may not be wearing his friend’s jacket. If he were to have brought attention to her, or even called the guards on her, with this assumption, it marks her as the victim. The people would most likely side with her until they knew all the facts. Or they may have started a riot, depending on who believed the prince for making such an uncalled-for assumption without testing it out. Instead, he turns away and goes back to being the loveable guy we know him as. However, I don’t think he will forget about her. And as soon as the carriage ride is over, I’m sure he is telling his guards, in private, that they need to look for a girl wearing Kell’s coat.

Jessica Jones Reputation GIF

Also, just imagine his thoughts. Kell hasn’t returned home and here he finds a woman wearing his coat. What would you even think at that? How did she get it? And above all, what happened to Kell?

And since everything seems so off, who is in on this plan? Does Rhy know something about what happened in White London? (Is he maybe trying to teach Kell a lesson about dealing in the Black Market?)

Jackie: True, true. But I’m thinking that Rhy knows more than he lets on either way. I have a feeling that when Rhy and Kell meet up again that it may not be as it once was. Not just because of this encounter, but I just can’t shake the feeling of that gift of strength that Holland gave him. It must be coming into play and soon, and I don’t believe that it will make Rhy and Kell’s relationship easier or leave it where it once was. 

Anyway, I have a feeling that Rhy is in on something that has happened to Kell recently, whether it be the White London incident or Kell’s run ins with Holland, I just can’t shake the feeling that Rhy and Holland are working together on something against Kell. I guess we will have to see what is going on once Rhy and Kell meet up again. 

Part 9: Chapter 2

Jeanna: We now interrupt Kell and Lila to bring you a character introduction. Meet Aldus Fletcher, he works in a pawn shop. He’s a very interesting character. For such a short chapter, V.E. Schwab is able to put a lot of information in there. We know there’s bound marks all over his arms. This is the first time we see a part of Red London’s law system. In White London, that binding spell seems to happen a lot. In Red London, Aldus was bound, his magic stripped from him, after using his power to control another. However, he has a secret. Somehow, he was able to get the bound marks reversed, thus giving his magic back. I’m sure if the royal family ever found out, it would mean certain death. 

Besides Aldus having an interesting backstory that I would love to know more about, he also has something of Kell’s. A white rook. The farther we get into A Darker Shade of Magic, the more it seems to revolve around simple items. That’s very interesting, how Schwab is able to move the story along with just a mention of an item that you wouldn’t, otherwise, think would be significant. Primarily, the Stone which is literally just a stone has become a huge deal. However, the items from the beginning: coins, Lila’s watch, a music box, and now a simple chess piece.  

Jackie: I was intrigued by this character Fletcher since he is introduced well into the middle of our adventure, and since he has these binding marks that are all broken, so he is a free man. I didn’t know that binding magic could be undone in Schwab’s magical universe until now, which opens up a lot of questions about how perhaps, the White London rulers magic may be able to be undone. 

Anyway, I’m sure any person with undone bindings would be sure to be punished by the Red London rulers. Maybe, unless they had a certain request that only Fletcher could fulfill, maybe then his bindings could be undone. 

Disney Pixar GIF

Yes, I think it’s interesting too that Schwab seems to create a complex story around what seem like simple encounters, trinkets, and people. But, when combined altogether, these pieces of the story weave together into an intricate journey not only about Kell, but about the magic and people that he is surrounded by, the good and the bad. I have a feeling that if Fletcher sees Kell again that he will be part of “the bad” category, and I’m not quite sure Kell will want to run into someone who is knowledgeable or witty enough to get out of a binding spell...I mean if you can undo multiple binding spells put upon you and you can control others, what can’t you do? 

Jeanna: Wait! Does this mean there’s still hope for Holland? Could he get out of his binding spell with the White London rulers? Not that I would feel any safer if he was free or not but if Aldus could be free, I’m sure Holland could undergo the same.

I don’t know about Kell. What I do want to know was did the gambling match between the two happen before or after Aldus was bound? And with Kell being an Antari and all, I don’t think he has much to fear from Aldus, unbound or not. 

Part 9: Chapter 3

Kell and Lila are trekking their way to the Inn where Kell keeps his secret collection room. Lila is particular seething but hasn’t said much of anything to Kell about her thoughts. Until, of course, she has to share since it seems Kell’s searching for guards everywhere. Lila has a right to know what she has just walked into. However, to be fair to Kell, she wanted to come without much explanation. This isn’t going to be a walk in the park. They are going to throw that One Ring into the fiery depths of Mount Doom. One does not simply walk into Mordor.

Lord Of The Rings One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mordor GIF

Kell explains that the royal family owns him. Like a possession. This is spot on to what we expected in the beginning of the novel, of his thoughts on his home situation. Lila translates this as him being the prince. But also, him having a home, having food to eat and shelter. And she had lots of good points here.

Also, one of our many questions have been answered: Kell is in fact planning on leaving her in Red London. His plan is to what? Have her follow him until he finds an opening to disappear?

After walking through the streets of London, they finally come upon the Inn which has been burned to the ground. And all I could think of was his music box collection. Do you know how many years that must have taken Kell to collect? 

Jackie: I see what you did there, friend 😊. I believe that Lila has the right to know what she is walking in to since Kell is currently in paranoia mode, watching for guards. 

I believe that Kell does see himself as a possession of the royal family but I believe that at times, he wants to be more. The way he describes the relationship he has with them is like Lila is saying, at least what the royal family has shown him and done for him is more than you’d treat a possession. I think the character that exhibits the more behavior of being a possession is Holland. He is the textbook definition of a possession since the White London rulers do not show love or affection toward him, but they just want him to fulfill their orders. I believe that the Red London rulers see Kell as a possession, and that Kell sees himself as one too, as shown by his choice of words with Lila, but hey, at least he is not soul bonded to them, which I believe warrants the title of a possession more than anything. 

I’m glad to see that Kell does want to leave Lila in Red London, it’s too risky to bring her with him to Black London, and she wouldn’t have a way back. But, I’m not sure he’d come back to check on her, maybe he is just giving her this opportunity to start over in Red London and make more for herself than Grey London could offer. 

Well once we found out that the Inn was burned down, I was thinking, since we saw a glimpse of what Holland did to Barron in Grey London, does this mean that that tavern is also burnt down since the tavern in each London is a fixed point? Or does Holland have to burn down each individual one in each London? 

I know that we saw Holland attempt to kill/kill Barron, but we were never told if he did burn down the tavern, but if he did, would this one and the others have burned down as well? 

Jeanna: I’m glad that in some sense, Kell is leaving her in Red London to potentially make her safe because he’s convinced his quest will end in his death. However, I will be sad if it comes to that since I love the two bickering and just enjoying each other’s company. It’s sad to think their time together is almost over then. And where would that leave her? We already saw that she turns right back to her thieving ways, so she’s going to have to learn some magic, a new language, and find a place to live without any money to help her out. I feel like this was such a rash decision on her part. What has she gotten herself into?

John C Reilly What GIF by Gunpowder & Sky

That’s an interesting point about the taverns. And even though, it wasn’t said, people have been known to cover their tracks by using fire (ahem, Lila). It is possible that he burned down the Stone’s Throw Tavern to hide Barron’s body and the evidence of his magic. However, the tavern in which he keeps his collection room is the Ruby Fields Inn. The taverns that are a fixed point in each London are the Stone’s Throw Tavern, the Setting Sun Tavern, and the Scorched Bone Tavern. We know that the Scorched Bone is in White London and the Stone’s Throw is in Grey London and despite not having been in the Setting Sun Tavern (I don’t think we have), it must be in Red London. But I do really like that idea and I hope we get some answers to why these places are different than the rest. What makes them so special? 

Jackie: I would hope that Lila would come back after Kell comes back from Black London, but who knows? Kell has a lot of other pieces on his plate and eventually needs to return to the Red London rulers, or continue to protect them from afar, which I’m not sure whether or not he’d keep Lila around with all that going on. 

That’s true about the taverns, and I wish we would find out how they are linked. I’m starting to feel majorly deprived from our questions not being answered, and it’s getting harder to not read on in the book each week to see if I can find out any more information about the taverns, Kell, Lila, the White and Red London rulers, and just every other piece of the questions we have. It’s a first world problem, but still a problem nonetheless.

Jeanna: Oh, no. Don’t read ahead! I want to know so bad though too. However, I don’t think Schwab is going to answer most of our questions. This is book one in a trilogy and what if she were to leave all our questions out there ‘til the last book? That would be too cruel. 

Part 9: Chapter 4

The Inn has been burned to the ground. And this, my friends, was no ordinary fire. No need to guess who did it as it quickly becomes clear who when he shows his face two seconds later. Kell was able to think on his toes and by using the Stone, hides both himself and Lila- making them entirely invisible. 

Holland is making a call, using some sort of crystal. Who is he talking to? He lets them know that Kell is, indeed, in the area. Could it be the White London rulers? Or maybe even Rhy?

Holland is able to sense Kell using the Stone and calls him out on it. He also knows that Lila is with him which I thought was very strange, considering humans can’t travel between Londons so how could he assume that was even possible, or that she survived the trip? Holland knows something. He tries to oust them both by making it rain ash which is such a White London magic trick, it’s hilarious. It probably would have worked too if the Stone wasn’t so powerful.

Instead, Holland digs at their emotions but Kell stays strong. All Lila wanted to do was get out there and punch Holland in the face after he announced he killed Barron, showing the pocket watch as proof (there’s that pocket watch again). And there’s blood on the pocket watch. Oh my, is Barron really dead? I don’t want it to be true!

Danny Devito No GIF

This is such a powerful scene here. Lila bursts out into tears. I don’t think she often speaks with her emotions. It lets readers know how deeply she must have cared for Barron and how terribly upset she feels about his death. As soon as Holland gives up on them, for now, and leaves, Lila runs toward the pocket watch and just weeps over it. Clearly, it is not a smart move as Holland could have come back at this point and been like, “Got you. I wasn’t really gone.” It’s a good thing he doesn’t.

This does put Kell in possession of the Stone. He now has what he wants to make his escape, to put his plan into motion as far as leaving Lila behind and going off with the Stone on his own. Their next move is to go see Aldus who has an item, the white rook, that will get Kell to White London, since you need something from the place you are traveling to in order to create a door.

Jackie: I’m not sure who Holland was calling, but it sounded secretive and important, I guess we will find out who it was eventually. 

I hope Barron isn’t really dead, but once he pulled out the pocket watch with blood on it, it seems like Barron may not be with us anymore…
I felt for Lila since the readers can see and connect with Lila on the connection and relationship she had with Barron. That was the only other person really to care about or have some influence/aid in Lila’s life, it seems, besides Kell. 

By the way, even though Holland was the bad guy in this case, bravo to him for burning down the tavern which held the only tokens that Kell had to move throughout the Londons. Holland is smart and sly, so we will have to see if Kell is able to go to his not-friend, Fletcher, to see if he can get the white rook token to travel to White London, then off to Black London by using the Stone, I presume. 

Just as a side note, I wonder if Holland knows about the bad relationship between Kell and Fletcher and used this as additional motivation to burn down the tavern. If Holland knew, then that was a brilliant move since now Kell has to go up to someone who he humiliated in the past because of his arrogance and ignorance in his youth. If that’s the case, then well-done, Holland; Kell’s got his work cut out for him!

Cue the Imperial March for Holland’s beautiful work!

Jeanna: Kell cares about Lila?! Do I hear wedding bells? No, but all in all this ship is sailing nicely so far. Until, you know, Kell decides to abandon her to travel to White London by himself.

I wasn’t even thinking about Holland’s plan but he really thought of everything. However, how did he know about his collection room? The only person who may have known about the room was Rhy since Rhy was the only person to know about him trading on the Black Market. Now, I was thinking- Holland calls on that crystal and tells whoever on the other line, “He is in the city.” Now, if I was in White London (like the rulers are) and heard that sentence, I would think Holland meant that Kell is in White London, that city. So, I’m guessing that whoever was on the other line may be in the same city as both Holland and Kell presently (Red London). The only hiccup is that he says the words in his “native tongue,” so whoever is on the other line should know Holland’s native tongue. In this sense, Rhy probably does not know Holland’s language (or maybe he knows many languages, I don’t know). Though, I do think whoever Holland’s speaking to there is in the same city.

And if Holland knows as far as Fletcher, will he be waiting there too, having already killed him and burned that place to the ground too?

Jackie: Yeah, I’m wondering about these characters and their knowledge of the other characters too. Holland could already be in the know about Fletcher, so this plan could be a bust from this moment on. And I agree with you about the person Holland is talking to as well. I think they speak his tongue and are in the city as well. SO MANY QUESTIONS, SO LITTLE ANSWERS!

Jeanna: Let’s hope we learn a little more, get some more answers in the next section we read. And no reading ahead :)

This concludes this week's chapters of the discussion. What did you think?

  • Why would the royal family continue with Rhy’s party if Kell was missing? Wouldn’t they have waited for him?
  • Since Kell’s coat was in the gambling lot, had it once belonged to Aldus?
  • Fletcher tells the boy that he has been unbound by undoing the magic that once bound him to a certain person or persons, so what are the specific requirements to unbind magic spells?

Top Ten Tuesday

Top 10 School Books That Made Me Hate Reading

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Back in school, I read a lot of books for class. I, also, pretended to read a lot of books for class. It wasn’t until around 8th grade that I started reading avidly, everything my librarian could recommend to me. However, there were some books that I had to read for school that had me start questioning my love for books. If school books were a representation of what books are, I definitely did not want to read anymore. I’m glad I stuck those times out because here we are reading tons of amazing books together.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is: Freebie – Top 10 School Books That Made Me Hate Reading:

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens: I was so excited to read this. “A mystery? A who-dun-it, this’ll be good!” The jokes on all the readers as Charles Dickens died before the completion of the novel. So, here I was, an excited 10th grader, and what I got was an uncompleted book. The mystery remains a mystery. Of course, everyone has an opinion on who murdered the main character but I’d rather have heard the final outcome from Dickens himself.

Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists and the Ecology of New England by William Cronon: Oh, my gosh! I learned one thing from this book and you know, what it was? There were changes in the land! Seriously, though, we weren’t even tested on how many trees were left after the colonists came to New England.

The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle: Shouldn’t teenagers have an optimistic reading list? Instead, students get books like The Tortilla Curtain which Boyle could have only asked, “how can I make my characters suffer more?”

Animal Farm by George Orwell: I didn’t mind reading books about talking animals before this. Actually, I adored The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness even with its talking dog. However, after reading Animal Farm where the animals take up a rebellion and add politics to the mix, I just said nope to all other talking animals. Animal Farm gives you enough talking farm animals to last a lifetime.

Sarah T -- Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic by Robin S. Wagner: There was no reason why we should have had to read this book. Health class more than prepared us for the dangers of alcohol, I assure you. Reading about a teenage girl using her body to get money for her addiction did nothing except scare little 7th grader me.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton: I didn’t mind the book so much. It wasn’t my favorite. However, the end was entirely unbelievable, I thought. The two main characters get into a sledding accident, where they run into a tree, which leaves permanent damage. Let me ask you: how fast were they going to cause such permanent damage on their persons? Wharton made it sound like a rather small, backyard hill. I’ve always wondered the science behind this.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway: Truthfully, I don’t remember much about this one except it was definitely lacking in action. For a war novel, it felt sparse in battle scenes. And I wasn’t the only who felt A Farewell to Arms a tad boring. My cousins paid my twelve-year-old brother (at the time) to read the book to them aloud.

Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks: I wonder what possesses teachers to have students read such material. The protagonist has sexual relations with his mother, for crying out loud!

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne: I’m still a bit salty that I had to read this both in high school and in college. Yet, my second read-through, I much preferred it. However, The Custom House chapter is entirely skippable.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf: I’ve seen a question around the blogosphere about whether people enjoy plot or characters more. One without the other would certainly not make for a balanced book; I like balanced books. I love characters as much as plot so when I read To The Lighthouse which is incredibly character-driven, where the plot takes a back seat, I didn't like it as much as other books that seem to have both amazing plot and fantastic characters.

Which school books made you question your love for reading?

A Darker Shade of Magic book discussion

Book Discussion: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Week 7)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Welcome to the A Darker Shade of Magic book discussion! We are going to have a blast reading along together. Each week, following the schedule, my friend Jackie and I will recap that particular week’s chapters with hilarious commentary. At the end of each discussion post, there will be a few questions to get the party started. These questions serve as food for thought. All comments related to the book and this week’s chapters are always welcome! Remember: I am giving away a copy of the paperback edition of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (for extra entries, comment below)! Now, let’s get this party started!

This week, we'll be discussing Part 8, Chapter 1 to 3. To depict our thoughts in the most coherent way possible (after all, this is a dialogue between friends), my font color will stay black and Jackie's color will be red.

DISCLAIMER: Spoilers ahead! This post discusses this week’s chapters of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. If you do not want to be spoiled on what happens in the book, don’t read any further.

Part 8: Chapter 1

Jeanna: Kell wakes in Lila’s room, barely rested but alive. He’s gone through quite an ordeal and it’s not over yet. Not until he destroys the Stone. However, now that he’s gone and involved Lila (unintentionally, but still), she can’t just sit back and return to her old life. Lila wants to join him in his quest, to follow him on his adventure. It’s all she’s ever wanted, to get out and see the world—to experience it for herself. She insists on keeping the Stone until he agrees to let her come with him.

And, surprisingly, he agrees. His reasoning is a bit too morbid for my taste but I’m not Kell. He agrees to let her come with him so he can leave her in Red London to tell the royal family of his plan and probable death.

This chapter is a bit longer than we’ve read recently and I feel like a lot of it was recapping what we already know. Kell gives her the shortened version of the different Londons, which Lila catches onto quickly. There’s a lot of banter which is so much fun to read! 

Lila mentions the strangeness of his coat which I found hilarious. She used a healing salve, which Kell himself created and lost some time ago. She found it in his coat pocket, in one of the sides. That was hilarious; Kell misplaced it and it’s been in his coat this whole time. It makes you wonder how many lost items he could find if he only searched his pockets more often. And she tried the salve herself before using it on him! What does that mean? That’s so risky—it could have been poison. Is Lila brave or was that just stupid?

And we finally get some answers about the Stone. Kell’s been holding out on us. We finally know now that the Stone is, in fact, from Black London and that magic source is what brought Black London’s demise. It’s a little like Lord of the Rings. The Stone is the One Ring and must be destroyed before it falls into unwanted hands. It must be returned to the place where it was made – the depths of Mordor and Black London. Someone should write a compare and contrast paper on the two series; it would be really interesting.

Ring Elijah GIF

Jackie: Yeah, I really enjoyed the banter between Kell and Lila, and it made what we know even more clear, but gave great insight into some other things that the reader was not told as of yet. 

We got to hear more about the Stone and Kell’s desire to bring it back to where it belongs.

Wait a second...if they bring the Stone back to Black London, but the only people who can travel across London’s are Antari, wouldn’t Lila be stuck in Black London? I don’t know the extent of Kell’s magic, but when he was talking to Lila about the traveling between London’s he seemed to say that he could do it himself but could not bring another person along unless they had something like the Stone, which the Stone would be the relic to help Kell travel as well as Lila travel. I’m not sure if I’m correct, but hey if I am, this poses a big problem for Lila in the future.

Speaking of Lila, I thought it was interesting when Kell was asking her of her intentions on this adventure, and she finally says that she wants to go with Kell because she wants to explore the world and basically feel like she is spending her life doing things where she can discover and travel to new places instead of being stuck where she is, which is the pirate response I would expect from her.

Excited The Lord Of The Rings GIF

I thought their departure was interesting since Barron wasn’t even told goodbye, I guess Lila just knows that she will find her way back and Barron will just be ready to accept and help her, like that anchor he is. I wonder as well why he has made himself her anchor to rely on, maybe because he knows she has no one else that would do that for her? 

Also, this I mentioned in the question for this week, but I’m beginning to wonder how much Rhy is concerned about Kell. Kell keeps mentioning him and his memories of when Kell would come back from a big adventure and what Rhy would do, but we haven’t read about his perspective in ages. Does Rhy have concern for Kell? Or maybe it’s just that we haven’t heard from him since Kell has yet been back to visit him. I’m not sure, but I keep thinking about the “gift of strength” that Holland left him with and wonder how it connects with what has happened thus far in the story.

Jeanna: Yeah, I was also thinking that it may become a problem in the future—that Lila will get stuck in Black London when they try to give the Stone back to its rightful place. It's a good plan if Kell is meaning to do this by himself. But with Lila involved, he will need a power source like the Stone to get her back. They're already taking a huge risk that the Stone will be able to transport her into other Londons. I think Kell is planning on abandoning her in Red London to tell the royal family of his quest. He's most likely going to try to get rid of her at some point after he is able to get the Stone from her. So this issue may not even come to pass. 

You Shall Not Pass Lord Of The Rings GIF

And I also was thinking of Rhy and his gift of strength. We know that Holland is nothing but bad news at the point so this gift, whatever it was, was probably for White London's own gain somehow. Kell and Rhy are supposedly like brothers and really tight but we haven't seen much of Rhy’s side. I would love to get a snippet of what is going on in Red London at the moment. 

Lila is such a great character. I noted a quote from her that she mentioned, “I'd rather die on an adventure than live standing still.” this really resonated with me. I agree wholeheartedly.

Jackie: That’s true about Lila, maybe Kell will just leave her so that he doesn’t have to deal with the trouble of having her stuck in Black London. 

Yeah, I’d love to know what Red London is up to now. I mean, I feel like so much has happened, we have learned a lot and have had a lot more questions asked since we last heard from Rhy and the King and Queen. I’m just wondering where or if they will have a role in helping Lila out or something like that. 

Lila is very interesting. I enjoy her banter as well as her optimistic view of what she wants out of her life and how she is not afraid to chase it. It’s important to be motivated in life and want to have purpose. Lila has an everlasting amount of curiosity and the thrill-seeking side of adventure.

Jeanna: I agree with you there that it's good to be motivated to live and want a purpose but is she taking too far? Is she so caught up in finding a new life for herself that she doesn't realize the roots she has built for herself here? Without intending to, she has built something here with Barron. However, she doesn't want to say goodbye. I think she doesn't want to say goodbye for a variety of reasons: she doesn't want Barron to talk her out of it, she doesn't want to show Kell her weakness. She wants to leave on good terms so to avoid any confrontation of her crazy actions—essentially, she's leaving with a stranger on some quest. 

Say Goodbye GIF

Her leaving Barron in the dark about her whereabouts is both smart and stupid (which we found in chapter 3). 

Jackie: I see what you mean, but Lila is a pirate at heart, and I think that her being that way, she isn’t, or tries not to attach herself to solidly to one place alone. I think she knows that if she stayed at Barron’s that she would bore of the life there and want more, so that may be one thing hindering her time there. I agree with you about why Lila doesn’t want to say goodbye though. 

We will see what happens as she is leaving Barron now and see if the past follows her.

Jeanna: What gets me at the end of this chapter though is when Lila rests her hand on Barron’s door. Her form of goodbye translates to almost longing to knock but thinking better of it. It is difficult and heartbreaking. 

Part 8: Chapter 2

Kell and Lila are off to have an adventure! He explains to Lila as they start walking the streets of Grey London that it's best, in this case, to travel from one London to the next they should be near the place they want to be but not in/on it. This way, they hopefully can watch for people who are looking for them, who may be dangerous. In the end, Kell decides it's best to go to his collection room which is kept above a tavern in Red London. To me, since those attackers were able to find him even there, I don't think that's the best place for him to go first but we shall see. 

The banter is back with these two. And Kell even starts cracking jokes. Who knew, he can smile! 

Surprise Smile GIF

I feel like this scene has been dragged out a bit, since they both feel nervous about the next step—actually traveling to another London with a human. This is probably the feelings going through Lila’s mind when she lands that kiss on Kell. I didn't see it coming. First kiss. *swoon* And with that, they stepped through to the other side. 

Jackie: Yeah, I felt like this scene was a bit drawn out since they were anxious about traveling to another London, but that makes sense as to why. And then they kiss, and I thought it was funny since Lila was kind of the one to draw Kell in, so it was sweet as well as a bit humorous to me as well. 

I enjoyed the banter between the two of them, and I thought it was funny that Lila got such a kick out of Kell smiling that she had laughed for quite a while about it. 

I don’t really know any safe place for Kell to really go at the moment, but hey, at least he is trying to form some kind of plan. Hopefully this plan goes a bit more smoothly now, but with Kell’s nonexistent luck and Lila’s thirst for sweat, blood, and tears in the form of an adventure, who knows what will happen with these two. 

Jeanna: I'm guessing that Red London will be rather quiet. Unless we run into Rhy somehow who rings an alarm or something. The big worry is passing through White London. Lila will certainly get her sweat, blood and tears then. Imagine if the rulers got a hold of them—Lila would be toast. 

The Sandlot GIF

I thought that kiss was sweet and funny too. I wonder if anything will come of it. Kell and Lila would make a great pair. 

Jackie: Yeah, I’m hoping the White London rulers never got a hold of Lila, if anything could break her spirit, it would be those two. I guess we will have to see how this goes for Kell and Lila. 

Oh my gosh if they ended up together, they would remind me of my boyfriend and myself. Our banter isn’t quite as long, but we do enjoy going back and forth playing the “who is wittier” game.

Jeanna: You and your boyfriend are too cute! I hope it happens for those two. I was hoping for Barron and Lila, somehow. But that ship has sunk so fast. 

Abandon Ship GIF

Part 8: Chapter 3

Barron wakes to footsteps above. He knows the foot falls of Lila’s and even knows that she had left some time ago with Kell and those steps are definitely not Lila’s. He goes up to investigate. 

In this moment, I wish we could stop time and have him not investigate the noise. No, Barron! He opens the door to find Holland who is looking for Kell. We know that the rulers may have sent him to find the Stone and bring it back. But it's hard to think Holland isn't working for his own blood thirst at this moment. When Barron can't tell him anything useful, he kills him. Just like that. 

Barron is gone. I'm not okay.

Not Ok Martin Freeman GIF by BBC

Jackie: Yeah, I wish that Barron had not gone to investigate the noise, that’s like the number one rule of a horror movie, DO NOT go investigate the odd noise under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. 

But, I’m not convinced that he’s dead. I hope that he isn’t. It read in the book that everything went to “nothing.” So, I guess we will see...

Jeanna: For sure, whenever I hear a questionable noise in my house, at first I'll pretend I didn't hear it. Then I'll call out, hello or something and if no one answers me then I'm just going to ignore it. It is not happening. (Usually though, it's my brother who decides to surprise us by coming home from college on occasion. So not as scary as Holland, I assure you.)

I really hope you're right about Barron being alive. Do you think Holland would drag him back to White London to make a robot out of him? I hope that is not what's happening here. 

Jackie: Yeah, I know what you mean, except I’ve seen enough horror movies to not even call out to it, I just completely ignore the noise. 

Your brother would probably find Holland funny though knowing him, even though he is nothing like Holland. 

I don’t see Holland doing that, I think Holland was just ordered to find Kell and Lila and the Stone, and since Barron wasn’t about to give the information on their whereabouts, Holland probably decided that getting rid of him, or at least hurting him would get him out of the way for a bit so Holland could go see if Lila and Kell left anything useful behind to track them by. But I think Barron may still be alive, we will have to wait and see.

Jeanna: Yes, you've heard it here first: my brother is not at all like Holland. Just putting them in the same sentence is hilarious to me!

Ricky Gervais Laughing GIF

Let's hope that Kell left his healing salve behind so Barron can maybe magically heal all his wounds. 

This concludes this week's chapters of the discussion. What did you think?

  • Now that one person from Gray London and another from Red London are influenced by the Stone—do you think this “sickness” will spread in each place and ultimately, cause the destruction of the Londons?
  • What sort of feelings do you think Barron harbors for Lila as he thinks himself an anchor for her?
  • As Lila and Kell start off to travel to the other Londons, what will happen to Lila if the Stone was ever stolen from her? Would she have to rethink her pirating career in another London?
  • Does Rhy care about what happens to Kell? We haven’t heard from his perspective in a while, so does he really care about what Kell may be up to?